A special investigation by the Delaware Office of the Auditor of Accounts has revealed almost $90,000 in unauthorized payments to a former bookkeeper at the Gumboro Volunteer Fire Company.
In January 2016, PNC Bank notified GVFC officials that their bookkeeper was trying to cash a $10,000 check. GVFC officials contacted the state auditor with allegations that the former bookkeeper, who was not named in the report, had been issuing herself unauthorized checks since August 2015. Despite the allegations, her services were not terminated until April 2016.
Reports of fiscal problems at the Millville, Marydel and Frederica Volunteer fire companies in recent years led Delaware legislators to form the Volunteer Fire Departments Financial Management Review Task Force last year. That group is reviewing the accounting and financial management procedures of volunteer fire companies in Delaware, as well as their reporting obligations to the state. All Delaware fire companies are volunteer organizations, with the exception of the Wilmington Fire Department.
Much like in the Millville, Marydel and Frederica cases, the auditor’s report cited a lack of internal controls at the GVFC, enabling unauthorized transactions to occur and remain undetected.
“While fire companies in Delaware have proven their strong commitment to the safety and welfare of the communities they serve, their service does not mitigate their fiscal responsibility to taxpayers and donors,” stated the report.
After reviewing almost $150,000 in transactions, the auditor found 24 checks totaling $89,000 written to the bookkeeper and cleared by the bank in fiscal year 2016. Of the $89,000, just $8,000 was found to be legitimate pay for bookkeeping services. GVFD officials believe the rest of the money was spent on unauthorized transactions using pre-signed checks.
Since the allegations were made, the accused bookkeeper has placed $90,000 in a trust with the GVFC, to be held until the end of the investigation.
“We commend the volunteers that manage the fire companies for their efforts and stewardship,” stated the report, “And encourage them to seek appropriate resources to ensure proper controls are in place over taxpayer funds.”